Thursday, January 15, 2009

On the quest for Petrarch

I can’t imagine what it would be like to visit the birthplace of someone I really admire. It was interesting enough to see the rebuilt Globe Theatre in London, or visiting just seeing any number of old castles and ruins that once witnessed the lives to amazing people from the past. In truth, I’m not even sure who I would think of as being of any particular inspiration to me. Not that there haven’t been plenty, but I’d be rather hard pressed to come up with one to concentrate my efforts on. If I had to write a thesis, I haven’t the foggiest idea what topic, or central characters I would choose.
Laura, however, has done exactly this. She has written a thesis, and the principal character, at least in the first and longest chapter, was none other than Francesco Petrarch, an ancient Italian who hailed from the small Tuscan city of Arezzo, and who is renowned for the sonnets he wrote roughly 800 years ago, many of which featured his obsessive love of Laura. Hmmm...that was a bit of a run on sentence, but we’ll leave it for now.
The main focus of our second day was a trip to Arezzo to see said poet’s supposed birthplace. After a rather leisurely morning, which naturally involved some photo taking

we eventually made it to Arezzo. Traveling with guys really tends to be a very different experience than traveling with girls. They get hungry all the time. There was never any fear that we would end up, as we often did in the earlier half of our trip, eating only one large meal. Therefore, as soon as we arrived in Arezzo, order of business number one was to find food. Beckoned by a smiling Jack in a Sandy Claws suit, we went into a small restaurant where I had some really amazing spaghetti with pesto. Except for it being a bit on the al denti side, which is not exactly my favorite, the flavor was really incredible.

Arezzo just so happens to be the city where Life is Beautiful was filmed. It really is a very picturesque town, and we had a great time exploring the old square and seeing all the place had to offer.

I was particularly amused when I went to do this little self portrait in the square and this random working man totally stopped right in front of my camera. It was like he really wanted to be in the picture. It’s made especially entertaining because, along with the woman standing behind me, we made this perfectly spaced line. Who’d have thought.

From the square we made our way up to the house that is said to be the birthplace of Petrarch. Laura could scarcely contain herself, and who can blame her. His house is now a museum and a library, but it was closed for the holidays, so all we could do was see it from the outside. I think this is actually one of only three or four pictures showing all four of us, so it’s really nice to put it in here showing us standing on the steps of Petrarch’s former domicile.

While Laura drank in every moment at the house, Jonathan and I headed up to the park above where there is a massive statue of Petrarch. The view of Tuscany from the park wall was quite spectacular, and I just couldn’t hold back the poser in me!

When Laura and Jared rejoined us we all met around the Petrarch Statue. Laura had her thesis, which Jared had brought from the US for her, and she posed at the base of the statue, a perfect imitation of the ancient poet. She was definitely on a high for the rest of the day.

As we headed down from Petrarch’s high hill, we took in an incredible sunset.

I also saw this incredible little truck. It reminded me so much of the trucks that we used to watch struggling up the hill by the church we were working on in Catanzaro. It sounded like them as well. I couldn’t help thinking of the guys saying they were going to run out there and push the little three wheeled trucks up the hill, as they didn’t believe them capable of making it on their own. This picture is one of my favorites from the entire trip.

Upon first entrance into the City of Arezzo, Laura commented that it was a bit like Cheb. It seemed much smaller and more out of the way than Florence. Then, however, we found our way to the shopping district. Let’s just say the shopping in Arezzo most definitely puts the horrid little shops in Cheb to shame. We could have spent a lot more time browsing, but we had tickets booked back already, and had to hurry back to the train station.
When we got back to Florence it was, again, time for dinner. I don’t generally comment about every meal that I eat, but we were in Italy for goodness sake. Isn’t that half the reason people go to Italy after all? We went to a small Trattoria called “Le Mossacce.”

The place was small and really crowded. We actually had to stay outside for quite some time. When Laura and I were finally able to crowd in Jared and Jonathan looked really pathetic outside.

Eventually we were seated, and enjoyed the bustle of the cozy space. We were seated at a table with a couple other small groups. It reminded me of joining people in Hong Kong at the round tables in most local style restaurants. We could see the kitchen, and while we were waiting, we’d been able to see them pulling large chunks or meat from the fridges near the door, or slicing thin strips off the ham hocks hanging from the ceiling. The menu was very limited, but I was excited by the prospect of some real Italian Lasagna. It was really tasty, and was served with some tough Italian bread as well. I was excited about the bread in advance, remembering again the bread we used to chaw on back in Catanzaro, but this bread was made without salt and wasn’t nearly as good as that which I remembered from my youth in the south.

After a long and busy day, we were all quite tired. Jonathan took us to a massive book store, and there we wandered aimlessly for a while, looking at books in English that we hadn’t been able to see for a long time. It was a very relaxing way to end the day. By the time we got back to the hostel it was after 12:30 and once again everyone else in our room was already fast asleep. We enjoyed being the party animals.

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